REVIEW: Different Class: The Story Of Schools Rugby League, by Phil Caplan and Ron England

Neil Barraclough

Schools rugby league, an area of the sport through which hundreds of thousands of players have passed during the last century, has finally been recognised with a superb book documenting its history and progress since the turn of the 20th century.

Different Class: The Story Of Schools Rugby League does a sterling job in tying together different strands of the story, seamlessly mixing facts and photographs with memories and anecdotes from those involved throughout the years.

The project, made possible by a grant from the Awards for All Lottery Fund and the RFL Heritage Fund, is not intended to be a definitive match-by-match record of schools rugby league.

Instead it tells the story of the development of the sport in schools across the country during the last 100 years, tracing the social and sporting changes in that time as well as highlighting some of the glittering graduates from schools rugby league.

It has taken the authors four years to compile and collate the information needed for such an authoritative work, but the result is something both can be proud of.

Caplan writes: “There is something rewarding and exciting in such a voyage of discovery, to trace the start of what became more famous names (and) see the first rung on their particular ladder.”

For lots of fans, their only exposure to schools rugby league is at the traditional Wembley curtain raiser ahead of the Challenge Cup final.

But consider some of the graduates from that particular fixture who later went on to grace stages like Wembley and their ilk across the world. Sam Tomkins, Kevin Sinfield are the modern-day examples, but before them lies a roll of honour including Denis Betts, Bobbie Goulding, Phil Clarke and Joe Lydon.

Caplan explained: “Over 60 boxes of material were collected nationwide; a mountain of minute books, articles, reports, programmes, pictures and brochures. They were added to with appeals to members of the public to send in their tales, together with interviews with some of those who played a significant part in, or were products of the schools game.”

Different Class: The Story of Schools Rugby League is a worthy addition to the bookshelf of anybody interested in the history of rugby league.

Different Class: The Story Of Schools Rugby League, by Phil Caplan and Ron England, is available now. ISBN 978-0956804341, published by Scratching Shed Publications. Buy now and save on the cover price.